Showing posts from May, 2009

Lowepro unwrap new Toploaders

Press release:

Date: 29th May 2009

Lowepro’s new Toploader Pro AW Series.

Lowepro’s latest Toploader Pro AW Series is a great carrying solution for the pro who requires fast access, agility and flexibility from a camera bag.

With its asymmetrical shape, the Toploader Pro AW Series follows the line of a pro DSLR camera for a snug and protective fit. It also includes Lowepro’s unique 360° All Weather AW Cover™ that allows you to work out of the bag while protecting your gear.

This series is packed with useful features such as an inventive side opening that offers easy-grip access to capture a shot in a flash; U-shaped zipper pulls that are easy to grasp; plus extra pockets for accessories and small personal items. Lowepro’s exclusive SlipLock™ loops have been added to allow attachment of items and Lowepro’s quick-release buckle allowing the photographer to close the bag without zipping it, enables fast access plus security whilst on the move.

The Toploader Pro Series can be worn three ways to…

Sony add two Cyber-shots: W180 and W190

Sony press release:

Great pictures to fit everyone’s pocket : Slim, stylish Cyber-shot cameras by Sony offer superb picture quality and outstanding value

• 10.1/12.1 effective megapixels (W180/W190)
• Easy to use with convenient shooting functions
• Smile Shutter automatically captures smiling portraits
• SteadyShot and High Sensitivity ISO 3200 for crisp, clear shots
• Seven Scene Selection modes
• 3x optical zoom and 17x/18x Smart Zoom (W180/W190)
• Choice of three colours (silver, black, red)

Two slim, stylish Cyber-shot digital cameras from Sony offer outstanding quality and value to suit every pocket.
The Cyber-shot W180 and W190 are the perfect no-fuss choice for anyone who needs to capture family moments, holidays and nights out.
Both models look great with slim, clean lines and a choice of silver, black or red colour finish options. Ideal for first-time photographers, they’re beautifully easy to use, with a simple slide switch to select photo/movie/playback modes.
For maximum creative fr…

Olympus E-450 Hi ISO examples

We've had an Olympus E-450 for a few days, and I thought I would publish some in camera JPEGs grabbed at dusk yesterday at ISO1600. Noise reduction and Filter settings left at the default, that's to say the latter set to Standard, and the former left to Auto. The last frame is a 100-percent crop (SAT set to Normal). For the time being, Raw files can't be developed by LR, Aperture or C1 Pro.

Canon Enables Manual Exposure in Video on EOS 5D Mark II

Canon has today announced the long rumored firmware upgrade for the EOS 5D Mk II, allowing manual control of shutter speeds, aperture settings and ISOs when using the camera in its HD video mode.
Canon press release:
LONDON, UK, 27th May 2009: Canon announced today it will release a firmware update for the EOS 5D Mark II allowing users to manually control exposure when shooting video. The new firmware will be available for download from 2 June 2009 on Canon Europe’s support web site.

Following the launch of the EOS 5D Mark II in September 2008, Canon’s Research and Development team has listened closely to customer feedback to develop additions to the camera’s movie recording functionality.

Allowing EOS 5D Mark II owners to achieve even more stunning video results with the camera, the firmware update will include the following manual controls when shooting video:

Full aperture selection
ISO speed: Auto, 100 – 6400 and H1
Shutter speed: 1/30th – 1/4000th second
The EOS 5D Mark II integrates f…

Accessories for macro photography

Tripods aren’t the only means of support for the macro photographer, especially if working close to or at ground-level. I've rounded up a few accessories that'll make life that little bit easier.

Gorillapod SLR Zoom $54.95 (£35).

This little table-top tripod uses a series of ball-joints to make up each of its three-legs, enabling not only ground-level access but allowing the legs to be wrapped around fence posts, branches and the like. The SLR-Zoom easily supports small to mid-size DSLRs with a 50 or 100mm macro lens, and weighs just 241g.

Kirk Low Pod $150 (£120)

This specialised piece of kit, essentially a stable mounting plate for a Ball head, allows easy low-level work for the macro-enthusiast. Made from cast aluminium, it comes with a large carrying handle and four-rubber feet for stability on a number of different surfaces.

Wildlife Watching Supplies – Double Bean Bag $ 51 (£21.72)

Featuring two-bags sewn back-to-back to provide additional support and greater stability in t…

News of Sony A500 and A550 leaked?

Forum members over at Dyxum, the Sonolta (Sony/Minolta) forum, are discussing the accidental leaking of new Alpha 500/550 models on the Sony Canada support site. Follow the link to the Dyxum forum.
Source Photoclub Alpha.

Macro photography: 10 top tips on using a tripod


1: Make sure the centre of gravity is compensated by the leg placement – ideally over one leg, if possible.

2: Don’t over-extend the centre-column, as you will increase the likelihood of vibration and may adversely affect the centre-of gravity.

3: Make sure all the knobs/clamps are tightened off to increase rigidity and reduce vibration (will also save on accidental crashes).

4: Use spikes outdoors (push into soft ground), and non-slip feet indoors to prevent splaying and increase rigidity.

5: Use the self-timer or buy a remote release to reduce camera vibration.

6: Ideally use mirror lock-up or Live View (contrast-detection mode) to further reduce camera vibration.

7: Don’t scrimp on the head. Although macro tripods require quite a lot of adjustment during set-up, you’ll still find you spend more time adjusting the head.

8: For precise adjustment and ease of use, large ball-heads are preferable to 3-way tilt-and-shift type heads.


Olympus mFT: interview with Haruo Ogawa

The following is an interview with Mr Ogawa (head of DSLR development in Toyko) at Photokina 2008, discussing Olympus‘ take on mFT. It’s reproduced here in its entirety and is pretty candid. I really don’t know if it has been posted or published elsewhere (I'm sure it will have, as I've sat on it for months) but I’m grateful to Olympus UK for sending this to me.

Was mFT part of the original Olympus 4/3 strategy and if not, when and why did it become important?

No hard and fast answer to that but the overall concept of size certainly been a key component of 4/3 development so this in many ways is a logical step. Let’s say that these things are often on paper but timing depends on technology.

How does mFT fit in with the overall product strategy of the existing 4/3 system?

It is an addition – a branch if you like, a whole new potential market – complimentary but also separate. Surveys have suggested that up to 25% of the 100 plus million people who bought compacts in the last ye…

And a couple more...

Nikon users will notice the inclusion of ADR and CPU contacts, essentially what Nikon termed Ai-P spec. The Ai (Auto indexing) ridge ensures the Voigtlander 20mm f/3.5 Color Skopar has backwards metering compatibility with manual focus SLRs dating back to the Nikon F2A and F2AS (DP11/DP12 Photomic heads), while the CPU data-bus provides compatibility with modern film cameras such as the F100, F5 and F6, as well as latest digital SLRs. Please note, this a manual focus lens.

UK link: Robert White USA link: B&H Nikon fit, Pentax fit.

Unboxing Voigtlander Color Skopar 20mm f/3.5

Okay so I don't normally do this kind of thing, but hey it's my blog and I can do what I like. It's not a video either just a couple of stills but it will give you a taste of what to expect when you plunk down your cash. Should of done this before I posted the first look, but well there you go. I didn't, so I'm doing it now.
Update; click here for a few more images.

UK link: Robert White USA link: B&H Nikon fit, Pentax fit.

Macro tripod review part VIII: Uni-loc Major System 1600

Uni-loc Major System 1600 $275 (£175) + Uni-loc 30 ball head $65 (£40) (not shown).

SPEC PANEL (exc ball-head)

Max Height (column down): 136cm
Max Height (column up): 180cm
Min Height: 0cm
Leg Sections: 2
Closed Length: 83cm
Weight: 3.8kg
Load capacity: 20Kg

Quality 5/5
Features & Design 4/5
Value for Money 5/5
Overall 4.5/5

Without doubt this particular model is the heaviest and largest of the group, and it’s ideal for supporting heavier gear, however, there are smaller and lighter models available from the maker.

Like the Benbo on which it’s modeled the Uni-loc also exhibits an enormous range of movements making it ideally suited to difficult to reach subjects. The Major 1600 has the edge on build-quality though and this particular model features an independently lockable centre-column. As a result I found I was much less likely to have an accidental spill and it greatly improves on the original design where one clamp locked all three-legs and column.
I also liked the folding co…

Up close & personal - macro tripod review part VII

Velbon Ultra Luxi M complete with head $150 (£69)

SPEC PANEL (inc ball-head)

Max Height (column down): 119cm
Max Height (column up): 139cm
Min Height: 19cm
Leg Sections: 5
Closed Length: 34.5cm
Weight: 1.26kg
Load capacity: 2.5kg

Quality 4/5
Features & Design 4/5
Value for Money 4/5
Overall 4/5

At first sight the diminutive Ultra Luxi M seems out of place in this company, but shorter leg tubes and 3-position leg joints it can be used quite successfully for low-level work. And, thanks to the 5-section legs the Velbon is capable of extending to the height of the others on test, but it lacks a tilting column to get in close.

I’m not normally a fan of Pan and Tilt heads, but I have to admit I was really impressed by the bundled Velbon PHD-41Q head. Not only were the locking handles really smooth, allowing high precision when locking the head off but it was steady as a rock too. If I have a concern, it was as a result of some slight play in the rubber-covered …

Olympus Micro 4/3 build-up begins

It's coming...
An undisclosed source (I don't want to get anyone in trouble) said to me they've seen it and it looks great. Of course what they've seen is another thing altogether...But, I think it will likely resemble the mock-ups shown at PMA and elsewhere. All will be revealed in the fullness of time. Here's the link.
UPDATE 24/5/09: I thought I would add the images of the MFT concept model Olympus sent a while back. Save you looking elsewhere...

I'm hoping Olympus follow through with this, there's a market for a rangefinder-esque model with detachable lenses, evidenced by all those mFT lens adaptors that have appeared. And Olympus lenses are so so good, have you seen the results from the 4/3's 12-60mm and 14-54mm Mk II? They're really something.

Pentax K-7 more images

I think Pentax are doing the right thing with the K-7, it's small, highly specified and well-made. That and the maker's range of high-quality Limited glass is really going to appeal to a lot of people.
You simply don't get this with Canon or Nikon, their semi-pro models are hulking great things and rarely handle well with their mid-range primes. I'm thinking 35mm f/2, 28/24mm f/2.8, maybe 85mm f/1.8 too. Most of those lenses date back to the late 1980's and 90's and were designed for smaller 35mm models.
This isn't new territory for Pentax, think back to those excellent MX, ME and ME Super models from the 70's and early 80's. And don't forget the pro-level LX, there's quite a bit of that models DNA in the K-7. Of course it's a market that Olympus currently occupy with their excellent Evolt models, the E-30, E-620 and E-450 are the best we've seen from the company.
What's more it looks like Sony could be making more of a play for …

Pentax K-7 magnesium body exposed

Found this image of the Pentax K-7 in the press area. In case you didn't realize (and no I'm not trying to sound clever), the K-7 is the company's first DSLR to made using a magnesium alloy body, previous offerings used a engineering plastic outer over a stainless steel chassis. And like the K10/20D and K200D , the K-7 body is weather-sealed, though you will need to choose similarly specified lenses.

Up close & personal - macro tripod review part VI

Slik Sprint PRO II 3-Way $95 (£80) (inc head)

SPEC PANEL (inc head)

Max Height (column down): 132cm
Max Height (column up): 162cm
Min Height: 18cm
Leg Sections: 4
Closed Length: 68cm
Weight: 1.1kg
Load capacity: 2kg

Quality 3/5
Features & Design 3/5
Value for Money 3/5
Overall 3/5

Slik subscribes to the same point of view as rival Velbon, namely shorter legs should get you closer to your subject. That works to a point, if your subject is close to the ground, but you’ll have to rely on another (sturdy) platform if your macro subject is at waist level or so. That’s not because the Pro II isn’t capable of extending to the height of the others on test, but it too lacks a tilting column to get in close with the legs extended.

Despite that the Slik works reasonably well at low-level. With the centre-column removed, the leg joints allow the tripod to lie almost flat to the ground. Unfortunately the pan and tilt head has a limited range from the centre of the leg…

Voigtlander add Nokton 50mm f/1.1

Following in the footsteps of the Leica Noctilux f/0.95 and Nikkor-N 5cm f/1.1, Voigtlander has added a Nokton 50mm f/1.1 to the range. Priced at €999 ($1379) and expected mid June, the new Nokton is designed to be used with Voigtlander Bessa RF cameras, though will also fit Leica M models, including the latest digital M8.2. There's also a following using these and M-series lenses on the Lumix G1 with adaptors (such as those announced in the previous post). Filter diameter is 58mm and the lens uses 7 elements in 6 groups. It weighs in at a substantial 428g. A new vented lens hood (pictured) has also been announced.

More information can be found at the Voigtlander, Japan site here.
Update 12 July '09:
B&H still don't have it listed, and aren't as yet accepting orders.
UK distributor, Robert White, is listing the new Nokton for £950 plus VAT (15%).

Two new Panasonic mount adaptors revealed for Lumix GH1

Panasonic press release, this morning:

Panasonic is pleased to announce two new mount adaptors, the M Mount Adaptor DMW-MA2M and R Mount Adaptor DMW-MA3R, to further enhance the photographic experience with cameras from the Lumix G Micro System.

The M Mount Adaptor and R Mount Adaptor are developed under support of Leica Camera AG, making it possible to attach Leica M lenses (DMW-MA2M) or R lenses (DMW-MA3R) on DMC-G1 and DMC-GH1. Users can enjoy outstanding image rendering offered by the combination of high quality Leica lenses and Lumix G cameras that are full of Panasonic's cutting edge digital technologies. These adaptors also allow users to use the movable MF assist function, which enlarges the selected area when focusing manually.

The compatibility information of Leica M/R lenses are on

After Shake sensor cleaner announced for dust-busting DSLRs

Press release:

Austrian manufacturer GREEN CLEAN has developed a special cleaning set for DSLR cameras with an ultrasonic vibration cleaning system:

The “After Shake“ Sensor Cleaner.

More and more modern DSLR cameras have an Ultra Sonic or Super Sonic vibration system to shake loose dust particles off the low pass filter, which sits in front of the actual CCD or CMOS sensor. These so called “dust reduction systems” work to some degree, but cannot shake off welded-on dust and abrasions or oily substances and this is where the Green Clean After Shake Cleaning System is the safe and easy way to remove these!

“After Shake“ Sensor Cleaner:

• Use after the cameras Ultrasonic dust reduction shake
• Removes stains & “welded-on” dust
• “Wet Sweeper” with precise dosage of dissolving liquid
• “Dry Sweeper” with pre-treated textile

The Wet & Dry Sweepers SC-5070 come in a sealed double sachet. The Wet Sweeper has a pre-soaked foam tip with just the right amount of solution needed to dissolve a…

Leica M8 White Edition

The new LEICA M8 White Edition

Better late than never, so they say, Leica's PR company finally forwarded the details of the limited edition White M8.2. No word on quantities, but it's thought to be in the region of 250-275 units. Start saving.
Update 21/5/09: 275 units in total.

Leica UK press release

Following the success of the recent LEICA C-LUX 3 in white, Leica Camera decided to see what the LEICA M8 would look
like in white. They liked it, and have decided to launch a very limited run.

The camera will be finished in the smoothest white nappa cowhide and white lacquer, and with chrome controls and all the technical specifications of the renowned LEICA M8.2, Leica is expecting the camera to be in high demand when it’s released.

It will come as a complete package including a LEICA ELMARIT-M 28mm f/2.8 ASPH lens with “White Edition” silver anodized finish, and matching metal lens hood, a filter E39 UV/IR in silver, a genuine leather white carrying strap, a Certificate of Leica A…

Up close & personal - macro tripod review part V

Manfrotto 190x ProB $159.95 (£90) + MN484RC2 head $59.95 (£39)

SPEC PANEL (exc ball-head)

Max Height (column down): 122cm
Max Height (column up): 146cm
Min Height: 8.5cm
Leg Sections: 3
Closed Length: 57cm
Weight: 1.8kg
Load capacity: 5kg

Quality 4/5
Features & Design 4/5
Value for Money 5/5
Overall 4.5/5

Italian tripod and lighting support manufacturer Manfrotto needs no introduction, they have a huge range of tripods to suit all budgets and they’re widely available. The popular 190 model comes in many guises and our sample the 190x ProB is one of the more high-end versions, albeit with aluminium tubing and 3-section legs to keep the cost down.

As well as boasting a horizontal centre-column option and high-density foam leg wraps other handy features include a bubble-level, weight-hook, and 4 leg-locking presets (instead of the usual 3). If need be, this means the 190x ProB can be laid flat on the ground, like the Gitzo.

I like the fact the centre column …

Kingston ship SSDNow M Series 80GB and 160GB solid-state drives

Kingston Technology announced today that it is shipping an all-in-one bundle kit with the SSDNow M Series 80GB and 160GB solid-state drives, making the SSD installation seamless. The SSDNow M Series are the Intel® X-25M SATA SSDs. The bundle combines the solid-state drives (SSD) with the software tools necessary to clone the contents of your hard-disk drive to the SSD, as well as installation hardware.

London, UK -- May 20, 2009 -- Kingston Technology Europe Ltd, a subsidiary of Kingston Technology Company Inc., the independent world leader in memory products, announced today it is shipping an all-in-one bundle kit with the SSDNow M Series 80GB and 160GB solid-state drives, making the SSD installation seamless. The SSDNow M Series are the Intel® X-25M SATA SSDs. The bundle combines the solid-state drives (SSD) with the software tools necessary to clone the contents of one’s hard-disk drive to the SSD, as well as installation hardware.

“This all-in-one kit is the perfect solution for ent…

Pentax announce weather resistant (WR) 18-55mm & 50-200mm zooms

PENTAX UK is pleased to announce the launch of two compact, lightweight zoom lenses: the smc PENTAX-DA18-55mmF3.5-5.6AL WR, and the smc PENTAX-DA50-200mmF4-5.6ED WR. Featuring a newly designed, simplified weather-resistant construction, these zoom lenses offer excellent reliability in various outdoor conditions — particularly rain, fog and mist.

Main features

1. Simplified weather-resistant construction
These new zoom lenses feature a simplified weather-resistant construction designed to minimise the intrusion of water and moisture into the lens barrel. Mount on PENTAX weather-resistant digital SLR camera bodies, assures the user of improved durability and reliability during shooting in rain, fog or mist.

2. SP coating to block dust and dirt
The front surface of these lenses is treated with PENTAX-original SP (Super Protect) coating, which applies a special fluorine compound to the lens surface through a vapour deposition process. This SP coating not only repels dust, water and grease, bu…

Pentax finally unwrap K-7 DSLR

After a teaser campaign on their site in Japan, Pentax has finally taken the wraps off the new K-7. What's especially noticeable, with an Olympus E-30 in front of me, is just how similar the two bodies look. The big news though, is the addition of 720p30 video but anyone expecting a full-frame (35mm) sensor will be disappointed, the K-7 uses a APS-C CMOS imager. Oh, and I forgot to add, the K-7 is substantially smaller than the K10D/20D models yet with a mag-alloy body (amongst other things) comfortably exceeds their specification.

UK press release:
PENTAX UK is pleased to announce the launch of the PENTAX K-7 lens-interchangeable digital SLR camera. The K-7 combines a variety of advanced functions and user-friendly features to ensure outstanding reliability and capability within a compact, lightweight body.

The K-7 joins the current PENTAX K digital SLR camera series as a high-end model in the range. True to its series concept, it has been designed to deliver outstanding image quali…

Up close & personal - macro tripod review part IV

Gitzo Explorer GT2540 EX $649.95 (£490) + GH2750 off-centre ball £137

SPEC PANEL (exc ball-head)

Max Height (column down): 135cm
Max Height (column up): 164cm
Min Height: 3cm
Leg Sections: 4cm
Closed Length: 57cm
Weight: 1.8kg
Load capacity: 12kg

Quality 5/5
Features & Design 5/5
Value for Money 3/5
Overall 4/5

The Gitzo Explorer range all feature the must-have tilting centre-column and the GT2540 EX is the top-of-the-range model with 4-section carbon-fibre legs and column and magnesium alloy castings for low weight. There are just two knobs to operate; one for the column, and another for tilt and pan, making it one of the easiest and quickest to adjust.

Unlike other models from Gitzo, and some of those on test, the Explorer dispenses with the usual three-position catch for adjusting the leg spread. Instead it has a large clamp providing variable adjustment for each leg. While this means the legs can be adjusted a full 90 degrees from vertical to horizontal, permitting incredible …

First look at Voigtlander 20mm f/3.5 Color Skopar (part II)

Thought I would post a 100 per cent crop (actual pixels) of the corner of the frame from the previous post. Raw file from full-frame (FX) Nikon D700 at f/8 (well actually f/9) developed using Aperture, mono conversion using Nik Silver Efex Pro, and no output sharpening. Looks very encouraging to me.
Remember the APS-C format Nikon DX and Pentax DSLRs will be pulling from the central 'sweet-spot' of the CV 20mm f/3.5, and FOV will become the equivalent to a 35mm f/3.5.
UK link: Robert White USA link: B&H Nikon fit, Pentax fit.

Update 01/22/10: Please note a full test of this lens will be published in the near future.

First look at Voigtlander 20mm f/3.5 Color Skopar

Before I get a flood of emails, I know this is displayed really small, but I wanted to post one of the first shots with the Voigtlander 20mm f/3.5 Color Skopar, supplied by the UK retailer, Robert White.
It's too early to draw any conclusions from this, other than to say it looks really good on my Apple Cinema display. I'll make a print from the Epson SP 3800 we have in the studio too and comment on that as well. All the same, I have a lot more testing to do and it will be sometime before I can publish the results* of the test, so please be patient.
* See here, for a 'quick and dirty' corner crop of the above.
UK link: Robert White USA link: B&H Nikon fit, Pentax fit.

onOne to release iPhone remote camera control app

onOne Software are about to release a new product, the DSLR IRCC - iPhone Remote Camera Control. Check out their blog here.

Lenswork magazine compiling community tribute for Bill Jay

US magazine Lenswork is compiling a tribute to former contributor Bill Jay who sadly passed away last week. British born Bill was former Editor of Album magazine and Creative Photography in the 1970's before leaving for the States to continue to write and teach photography. Head over to Lenswork for more information and to add a few words to the tribute.

Up close & personal - macro tripod review part III

Giottos MTL 3361B £110 + MH1301 ball £79

SPEC PANEL (exc ball-head)

Max Height (column down): 144cm
Max Height (column up): 165cm
Min Height: 25cm
Leg Sections: 3
Closed Length: 68cm
Weight: 2.5kg
Load capacity: 8kg

Quality 3/5
Features & Design 4/5
Value for Money 3/5
Overall 3.5/5

Giottos’ MTL 3361B is a black-painted aluminium tripod with a pivoting centre-column and 3-leg sections. Although one of the heaviest on test it has a good range of features including foam wraps on all three legs, a built-in spirit-level, reversible 1/4-in and 3/8-in head attachment, and an optional, unadjustable short-column for very heavy cameras or large lenses.

In order for the column to tilt though it has to be removed first then re-inserted back into the hinged clamp. This isn’t quite as slick as the Gitzo Explorer, and there are three locks to adjust making it slightly more fiddly in use. I also found the size of locking knobs on the small side as the centre-column needed a lot of tightening to …